Saturday, June 5, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

The weather seems to have fallen into a pattern - cloudy, windy and cool in the mornings, clearing in the afternoon to a cloudless sunset. This morning we appear to be starting yet another cycle. The sunsets have been bright and lingering at this latitude until almost 11 pm. The almost constant breeze has quickly dried out much of the quarry, leaving only a few mud puddles rather than the muddy swamp we had to drive into after the rain earlier this week. I sometimes wonder what the folks at the rental car lot at Heathrow think when I drop the car off after a few weeks of this.

Yesterday was another full day at the mine for Byron and I. Byron was in poking around mode and quickly got into a small zone on the east side of the main tunnel near the face. So far it has yielded some interesting specimens - small but nicely formed twinned fluorites, green with purple cores, scattered about an undulating matrix of fine crystalline quartz over ironstone. If the quartz cleans up they should be quite attractive. So far we only have a few reasonably good ones, but not much ground has been moved here yet. It is as-yet unknown whether this is mineralization associated with the main vein or the periphery of another flat. Everyone agreed that regardless, this might be a good place to drive an exploratory cross cut to the east, as we are a good ways north of the last eastern flats at the Solstice pocket.

I spent most of the day back in my current home away from home, the northeast crosscut. After doing development work (otherwise known as "moving rock") for the past week it is finally starting to pay off. During the morning the fluorite seam I've been following started to produce some large gemmy twinned crystals, unfortunately off matrix. By early afternoon I had reached a section of the seam with an intact roof and managed to get a couple nice plates. Byron says that they look very much like the good stuff we were getting from the Birthday pocket two years ago. The roof of the seam looks like it continues, so hopefully it will give us some more. Aside from finally finding something worthwhile, all this rock moving has now created quite a pile of muck in the tunnel Dave had meticulously cleaned up just a few days ago. Guess we'll have to go through that cycle again soon. Another unintended consequence of all this is that this morning my back and shoulders feel as if someone had been beating me with a large stick. I need to do this sort of thing more often or not al all.

As we have been moving forward in the mine we have slowly gotten to the point where, if we need to use the chain saw underground, we have to wheel the hydraulic power unit in as well. The engine on the unit is diesel so, unlike gasoline engines, does not spew out immediately poisonous stuff like carbon monoxide. However, in a confined space like a mine tunnel the air will get stinky and foul pretty quick once you fire the thing up. Byron says that diesel fume hasn't hurt him yet and wasn't too concerned about it. On the other hand, both Dave and I were not looking forward to it at all, so when he got to the mine yesterday, the first order of business was to install a fan - the subject of today's photo. Our airbag does not reach all the way down the tunnel but this should, at least, provide some air circulation when Byron needs to do some sawing. We'll find out how well it works soon enough as I think he wants to do some today.

After quitting time, Dave didn't need to get right home so we had the relatively rare opportunity to have a couple beers with him and listen to old mining stories, catch up on how the family is, and hear about life in the dale. Back at the cottage afterwards I improvised a quick dinner, based on what I could find handy in the fridge. David Rennison showed up half way through the process, but seemed content to look through our ever-increasing pile of fluorite while we ate.

Though a Saturday, Byron will undoubtedly head off to the mine shortly. Jonina was felled by some stomach bug yesterday but seems recovered enough this morning to be contemplating her return to the garage and more specimen cleaning. Once I get myself moving this morning, I plan on doing a bit of specimen trimming with our table saw, then will likely follow Byron into the mine.

Until tomorrow….


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

The new ventilation system.

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